NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Pitt Research Provides Clues to Early Detection of Multiple Sclerosis

Pitt Research Provides Clues to Early Detection of Multiple SclerosisDr. Zongqi Xia, assistant professor of neurology and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, studies multiple sclerosis (MS) at the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Pittsburgh Institute for Multiple Sclerosis Care and Research.

In collaboration with Dr. Daniel Reich at the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Philip De Jager at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, he has been studying families of people diagnosed with MS as part of a larger effort known as the Genes and Environment in Multiple Sclerosis (GEMS) project. The goal is to map the sequence of events leading to MS.

In individuals affected by MS, the body’s immune system is turned against itself, injuring the nerves that allow us to feel, see and move. The immune system normally fights infection, but in MS, immune cells from the blood damage the brain and spinal cord over time. A key question is, “Can early detection of MS lead to better outcomes?” Earlier detection of the disease process can help researchers understand what triggers MS and ultimately test ways to prevent the disease.

In a recent study published in the JAMA Neurology, the team focused on family members who didn’t exhibit symptoms, but were deemed at higher or lower risk of developing MS based on their genetic burden and environmental exposure history. The researchers performed a wide range of neurological and neuroimaging tests designed to detect early evidence of MS. (more…)

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Residents Receive World-Class Heart and Vascular Services in Central Pennsylvania

Experts at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Altoona offer a full range of services for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of heart and vascular disease.

“Becoming part of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is a step we’ve been working toward since our affiliation with UPMC, and we are proud our local programs have met all of the requirements and standards to join this nationally-recognized group,” said Jerry Murray, president of UPMC Altoona and UPMC Bedford Memorial. “The advancements in care are a significant benefit and will now be available to patients here at home that we are pleased to bring to our community.”

Dr. Arthur DeMarsico serves as medical director of heart and vascular services and surgical services at UPMC Altoona, and has been a member of the community since 2001.

Residents Receive World-Class Heart and Vascular Services in Central Pennsylvania

Dr. Arthur DeMarsico

“I have always pushed the technical envelope during my career,” DeMarsico said. “Fortunately, I joined a robust practice when I relocated here and I augmented the service line with my specialty training in state-of-the-art vascular and endovascular procedures.”

Vascular surgery services at UPMC Altoona include:

  • Open and endovascular surgery of abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Endovascular repair of thoracic-aortic aneurysms.
  • Percutaneous intervention on all peripheral arterial bleeds, including atherectomy, angioplasty, stenting and drug elution technology.
  • Inferior vena cava filter placement and retrieval.
  • Traumatic vascular injury management.
  • Catheter-directed treatment for acute deep venous thrombosis, varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency and thrombophlebitis.
  • Laser and radiofrequency ablation for venous disorders.
  • Dialysis access.

“The UPMC vascular service, under the leadership of Dr. Michel Makaroun, had always been a resource for me prior to our integration,” DeMarsico said. “It was a natural fit when I was brought into the division as an employed physician. I have wonderful, gifted colleagues to exchange information with, and it always helps me remain on the forefront of evidenced-based care. Our group contains several leaders in vascular surgery that participate as primary investigators of numerous clinical trials. So, cutting-edge treatments will be seamlessly available to our community.”

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UPMC and Microsoft Plan to Develop Innovations that Empower Patients, Clinicians

UPMC and Microsoft Plan to Develop Innovations that Empower Patients, CliniciansUPMC and Microsoft announced today that they plan to create a strategic research partnership to develop transformative solutions and technologies that will empower people to live healthier lives.

By combining Microsoft’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud and business optimization tools with the clinical, research and product development expertise of UPMC, the two expect to solve some of the most perplexing challenges facing the health care industry — from disconnected information systems and regulatory uncertainty to physician burnout and poor communication with patients.

“Despite UPMC’s efforts to stay on the leading edge of technology, too often our clinicians and patients feel as though they’re serving the technology rather than the other way around. With Microsoft, we have a shared vision of empowering clinicians by reducing the burden of electronic ‘paperwork’ and allowing the doctor to focus on the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Dr. Steven D. Shapiro, chief medical and scientific officer of UPMC and president of UPMC Health Services Division. “Our planned partnership with Microsoft will help us transform the delivery of care and wellness in a way that was never possible before.”

“We are incredibly energized about the opportunities to make a difference in health care with a leading provider and payor like UPMC,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research and leader of Microsoft’s New Experiences and Technologies (NExT) organization. “This will be the first significant partnership in a new initiative that Microsoft is calling Healthcare NExT, which will deeply integrate greenfield research and health technology product development. Through these collaborations between health care partners and Microsoft’s AI and Research organization, our goal is to enable a new wave of innovation and impact.”

The two organizations intend to focus on projects that will empower both physicians and consumers and advance ground-breaking immunology research by using Microsoft’s deep AI expertise and global-scale cloud. These new products are expected to be built with and piloted at UPMC, under the guidance of its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, which already encompasses a broad portfolio of both homegrown and externally created technology companies.

“UPMC has a long history of applying technology ‘the right way’ and bringing innovations to market,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises. “With Microsoft’s vision and technological ingenuity, our planned, multi-year collaboration has the potential to help us deliver vastly better care and a better patient experience at a lower cost—the ‘Triple Aim’ of health care.”

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Wheelchair Technology Gains National Recognition

Wheelchair Technology Gains National RecognitionA life-changing wheelchair technology created by Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently gained national recognition at the Blackwood Design Awards in Dundee, Scotland.

HERL director Dr. Rory Cooper won the “Best New Concept” award for the Mobility Enhancement Robotic Wheelchair (MEBot), a device that allows navigation over curbs and challenging terrain. The MEBot impacts independent living for disabled individuals by assisting in real life situations; redistributing chair’s weight to help keep it balanced when going up or down hills.

The Blackwood Design Awards recognize brilliant, life-changing designs from all over the world. Judges were extremely impressed with the level of research involved and the functionality of the MEBot’s design. The MEBot was designed by wheelchair users, for wheelchair users. Blackwood Design judges valued the role of personal experience in the design process, as many HERL designers and engineers use power chairs.

“It is extremely gratifying to have the very innovative work of our team members recognized with this award,” Cooper said. “The MEBot sets a new standard for powered wheelchair mobility, and demonstrates what can be achieved when persons with disabilities, engineers and clinicians work together in concert.”

The prestigious award comes just two months after the MEBot competed in Cybathlon, a competition for assistive technology in Geneva, Switzerland. The award is bringing national recognition to the MEBot and HERL’s engineers and designers. Researchers are exploring commercial partnerships, and new manufacturers have expressed interest in the design.

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Pitt Professor Recognized for Clinical Excellence in Audiology and Speech Language Therapy

Pitt Professor Nationally Recognized for Clinical Excellence in Audiology and Speech Language Therapy Dr. Paula Leslie, program director and professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been awarded the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation) Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Recent Clinical Achievement. The award was recently presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s annual convention in Philadelphia.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation, as well as my colleagues for my contributions to advance the field of speech-language pathology” Dr. Leslie said. “I’m grateful to be able to support outstanding clinical staff and to have been nominated for such a prestigious award.”

The award recognizes significant accomplishments in the advancement of clinical service in audiology and/or speech-language pathology. The ASHFoundation is a charitable organization that promotes a better quality of life for children and adults with communication and swallowing disorders.

Dr. Leslie has applied her expertise in speech-language pathology and dysphagia to develop interprofessional protocols with both speech-language pathology clinical staff and palliative care providers, resulting in enhanced communication and care for patients throughout the UPMC system.


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